Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spines Part II

When a published novelist stops by your blog and leaves a friendly comment, the typical writer might feel a bit surprised, a bit honored. When Evan Kuhlman, the author of Wolf Boy, stopped by, I felt something a little different.

“Hey James, this is Evan Kuhlman author of Wolf Boy,” he wrote a few days ago. “Thanks for checking out my book and I hope you like it. And I know exactly what you mean about the wonders of virginal spines and perfect jackets.”

My immediate response? Excitement. Not because he stopped by (although that was pretty damn cool) but because it turns out he’s a fellow admirer of tight spines and pristine dust jackets. I like him already.

Many of my friends know of my obsessive hunt for that perfect spine and that flawless dust jacket. When we’re at the bookstore, my lovely wife often watches with amusement as I search through a stack of books looking for that one true beauty. But what few truly understand is that I actually get a deep, lasting satisfaction from finding that one book with the qualities I need.

For me, there’s nothing worse than spotting a stack of books from across the store only to find they’re not what you were hoping for after all. Imagine making eye contact with a pair of sexy co-eds (or sexy cowboys if that’s your thing) on the other side of the bar. Their smiles indicate all you need do is make a move and your wildest dreams are within your grasp. Filled with fantasies of what’s to come, you walk with your head held high, not even noticing the hundreds of others in the room. Nope, you have your eye on the prize. But when you get to their table, the blonde lights up a cigarette and the brunette turns out to be wearing a wedding ring. Wham! Back to reality, my friend.

Single men and women might not be able to comprehend that the situations like the one I just described are no more emotionally charged then the one I go through when eyeing a stack of books only to discover lose bindings, torn dust jackets, or reprints.

But when I do find that one special book, it’s like love at first sight. When a clean, bright dust jacket catches my eye, I’m immediately drawn to it. It's as if I’m no longer my own master. Without thinking, my hand reaches out to remove it from the shelf with a loving touch. And I know instantly that this is the one.

I caress the book’s spine and look it over from head to toe, soaking in every detail. The rest of the world has disappeared. It’s just me and the book.

With her weight held firmly in my right hand, I ever so gently open the front cover just enough to see the inside flap and the textual description of the book’s story. But I’m not reading the marketing material. No, I’m already beyond that. The siren has sung her song and I’m looking at her curves, soaking in her very essence, enjoying the aroma only a true book connoisseur understands.

I open the cover just a little more, meeting with oh so subtle resistance. The tease. It's as if she's softly begging for me to take her right there. But I certainly won’t desecrate her here. And even though I know she is to be mine, there is one more thing I’m looking for. Or rather, listening for. I open the book further. Just another fraction and no more. My ears are focused and have tuned out everything around me. They're waiting with such anticipation, it's as if they're willing the sound to appear. And suddenly, there it is. That soft creaking, that glorious moan intended only for me, that whisper that verifies what I already knew: This is the one.

I close her, saving her for another day. For now, I just look over the dust jacket and the stark white pages, looking for any hidden nicks or dings that I might’ve overlooked in my anticipation of that mesmerizing sound.

But of course, there are none.

And Mr. Kuhlman, if you’re still out there, know this: After tonight, your spine will be a virgin no more. I’ll be dipping into your novel this evening.

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